Right now, all human beings on this planet have a new threat coming to get us – it’s an attack of GRIEF.
Grief isn’t delivered in a nice neat package. It comes over us in sudden waves of emotional overwhelm. The emotional overwhelm easily spreads into panic, irrational behaviour, resistance and conflict.
Grief: Unannounced emotions arriving with their suitcases when things change…
The emotions I’m talking about are:
DENIAL ✔️ LONELINESS ✔️ DISBELIEF ✔️
FEAR ✔️ ANGER ✔️ GUILT ✔️
ANXIETY ✔️ BARGAINING ✔️ SHOCK ✔️
DISCOMFORT ✔️ SADNESS ✔️ ACCEPTANCE ✔️
My belief is that GRIEF sits in the gap that is created by any sort of shift, change or movement. We are all DEEP IN GRIEF in the middle of this Global Pandemic, and if we can realise this, this can help us label our feelings and ultimately deal with them better.
To explain what I mean – I will show you how I am feeling grief right now.
In early December 2019, I started seeing a new online client in China. She was talking about “this virus thing” and telling me what was happening with reports of lots of people suddenly getting quite sick over there.
I was very surprised to hear about what was happening, because it sounded like people were suddenly dying and it seemed to be a very serious break out. But, I said to myself that this is the sort of thing that happens to others, but not to anyone I know…
Of course I had heard of SARS and Ebola, but, like most of us in the UK, we probably all had the same fleeting thought “that sort of virus thing doesn’t ever happen to us does it?”
This is classic SHOCK – We’ve suppressed any feelings about it and conveniently told the story to ourselves of this is not going to effect me, or my world, so let’s carry on as normal. The shock protects us from feeling terrible and going into emotional overwhelm.
I don’t ever watch the news, because it depresses me, and I think if it’s ever THAT important, I’ll somehow get to know about it. So, I usually pretty much spend my life in a bubble of oblivion…
(I had developed a serious inner ear allergy to the word Brexit, and simply couldn’t really take that BoJo very seriously)
The “virus thing” wasn’t really in my radar again until January 2020, when my client called me and told me that she had come to the UK for Christmas and New Year, but would be in the UK for longer than she expected as China wouldn’t let her back in the country as they were in lockdown.
That’s when my mind again reminded me of this sort of thing is always happening “out there” and it won’t be something we need to think about. When I heard people saying we need to prepare for a global pandemic and stock piling bottles of hand sanitisers, I thought they were just being ‘negative.’
This is the DENIAL phase – Easily dismissing and totally rejecting any ideas of the pandemic possibility being a threat to our world, so we just shut these negative people out of our lives and accuse them in our head of over-reacting and just get back into our nice happy and safe bubble.
My client then got back in touch and told me that it was spreading through China fast and mentioned that it had started because people were eating infected bats that they had been buying in an illegal street food market in Wuhan – To me, that just sounded like a scene from Indiana Jones to be honest, so I didn’t really get freaked out – or think it was a cause for concern – apart from the fact I never realised that eating bats was actually a thing.
I then started seeing posts about his on my social media feeds and I was really interested in how some people, including myself seemed more freaked out by the bat-eating thing rather than the deadly virus thing.
I then started talking about bats and how we can use the metaphor about all the food we eat being a cultural concept of how different people have different ‘normals’, and it was interesting to see how most of us have a real aversion to eating some animals and not others. I started thinking about how only vegetarians and vegans have the right to complain and then went off on a mission to watch programmes about animal welfare.
Now what I am brilliantly doing is distracting myself from the possibility of threat and thinking about something else and focusing my attention away from the problem and turning it into a different discussion. In other words, changing the subject and literally turning the TV over to watch a different channel.
When we are in DISBELIEF, we do not allow our belief system to accept reality, because then our reality won’t get bent out of shape and distorted. This keeps our reality bubble in tact where we feel safe and secure. So we avoid the issue, start up different conversations and stick our hands in our ears and refuse to listen.
So, anyway, by now, the news is breaking out everywhere about this deadly Chinese bat virus that’s coming to get us in the West.
It was coming closer… It spread to Italy, and the Italian hospitals were filling up quickly.
Corona Virus, it’s called – Why is it named after a beer, I thought? Maybe the beer company needed some sales? Nope. That fell flat.
The jokes continued on social media, and carried on getting shared.
The meme I found really funny as each country put it’s social distancing measures into place, was the one on Tik Tok where the siren is going off and the guy shows how Italy pulls the duvet over itself, how Spain hides in a cupboard, how Germany crouches down low inside a wardrobe hidden by a hoodie and how the UK cheerfully washes their hands while singing Happy Birthday by Stevie Wonder!
Then, all of a sudden, the jokes stopped as deaths in the UK were getting reported. They doubled, then tripled.
Now the Viral jokes are not so funny anymore.
We make jokes when we feel extreme DISCOMFORT – to lighten up a situation – we don’t want to feel ANXIETY, so if we make a joke about it, maybe it will all ease up a bit and we can laugh it off. This way, we don’t have to face it, because facing it and seeing it for what it is causes FEAR, and fear is what we want to avoid.
We all then are slowly realising the lethal power of this tiny, invisible and DEADLY assassin.
It quietly populates at an alarming rate and once it gets into our human system it sits silently for two weeks and embeds itself into the cushioned lining of the lungs.
Just sitting, patiently while we carry on as normal – going to school, going to the office, getting on the tube, the bus, going out for dinner, sitting next to each other in the crammed cinemas and sitting on top of each other in the theatres…
While it just sits there dormant doing it’s thing, silently spreading it’s venom, like an air borne death seed.
As we all carry on as normal watching the theatre performance we are unknowingly inhaling the infected droplets of someone’s sneeze 3 hours ago in Row K.
The little droplets travel down the respiratory tubes and lie in wait until it can pounce into viral action.
It releases multiple glass like claws into our airways and starts to cut them up into shreds. This gives us a persistent dry irritated cough.
This tiny little crown shaped weapon is such a tiny little organism biologically, but affecting the planet on such a illogical and monumental scale.
I still didn’t want to listen to the news, but had now heard a few murmurs on social media (yes, I know the worst place to get the news headlines!)
This has never happened in my lifetime. I’m 46 now, and will be turning 47 in isolation.
I’ve never experienced war, displacement, dislocation or abandonment by my country (apart from the fact that they haven’t yet announced how self employed people like me will be supported yet… Fingers crossed they are busy writing a policy as I write this blog…)
But, this is now effectively a viral war. This little infectious agent is the best weapon ever.
It was only the beginning of March that things started to get serious in my mind, because that’s when I started cancelling stuff.
Once reality starts to hit, we are able to move ourselves into ACCEPTANCE. We recognise what is going on as a threat and we start to find ways of coping and becoming resourceful. We start to talk about it as a reality and thinking about how we can find solutions and help ourselves and each other.
On March 9th, it was my boyfriend’s birthday and I had booked us in to Bath Spa – a public thermal spa, but when he came home a couple of day’s before and asked if we should cancel because it would be a breeding ground. I got the right hump.
A day later, I saw sense, and really reluctantly called them up to cancel.
They were surprised, and then I was surprised they were surprised!
Just after that, that’s when we started obsessively hand washing and disinfecting door handles.
Then, they announced the EXAMS are CANCELLED. My eighteen year old has been working his socks off for two years to get the grades he needs to get into Oxford University, only to be told after he gets an offer to Oxford, after 3 days of intense interviews and an exam that twists your thinking into a spin that he won’t be doing his A-Levels.
That was when we all realised that the world may be ending.
Toby, my boyfriend works for a massive engineering company, who closed their doors and sent all 3000 of their staff home.
This was getting unprecedented.
People started speculating and stockpiling like crazy.
All large gatherings banned. Workshops and events cancelled, theatres closing their doors. Cinema’s shutting. Restaurants and Cafe’s shutting up shop and closed signs on small independent businesses.
Then local and national businesses started sending the round robin emails telling us how hygienic they were all being and how we should still go in and shop and support.
The emails were coming in thick and fast… (I’d unsubscribed to everything when GDPR was flavour of the month, so not quite sure how everyone and their dog still had me on their email list!)
Businesses panicking now. That made me stop and think.
Now, my plans were all getting messed up. I was literally rubbing things out of my filofax every day (yes, I still use a filofax) and I hate changing plans and changing my routine in this drastic way, so I started to get resentful and this was making me really ANGRY. Why is this happening, what can I do to change it, and how can I fix it? I am a Solution Focused person and I don’t want to cancel my plans. The BARGAINING has started. Can I get my money back. Do I have to sack my cleaner? All these stupid questions that in the grand scheme of things are so tiny and unimportant, but feel so important at the time.
Then on the 10th of March 2020, we all went out to the local pub for Thali Night Tuesday… That was nice…
THIS IS WHERE THE RECORD SCRATCH HAPPENS…
SADNESS kicks in. A deep sadness for our lives being turned upside down and our families no knowing if they are coming or going. Losing control over our autonomy is a very sad state of affairs. Thinking about our elderly relatives and our kids having to cut short their time at school. The hard work will all be for nothing. People are actually dying, and we may know someone who has, and all this is desperately sad.
I’ve been in lockdown for 10 months now. My last trip out was on 10th March 2020 and now I’m starting to feel slightly lonely – even though I see my immediate family, all my clients are now online and I feel this disconnection and the LONELINESS will creep in as this goes on.
IN THE UK: WE ARE IN NATIONAL LOCK DOWN NUMBER 3 ?
Lockdown means loss of personal freedom, social connection and freedom of movement unless essential.
‘Essential’ had to be specified by our PM: Basic Food Supplies or Medicine.
Boris Johnson, our Prime Minister said we were enlisted – we have all suddenly become an army of Dettol infused disinfection soldiers.
The virus, as we see in Italy and Spain is spreading its seed at a viral rate. Every day the deaths are multiplying in a crazy way because there wasn’t a quick enough enforced lockdown.
So, now, our NHS is on it’s knees, it was pretty much on it’s knees anyway, and this is so sad it had to take to a pandemic to really address this.
Our real soldiers are the NHS. They put themselves at risk every time they show up to work, and they cannot stop going in. They carry on, because that is their job. They need recognition, and we needed to support them by staying at home earlier.
I was plagued by GUILT for quite some time. Feeling terrible for the front line staff – thinking about how I can help and what I can do to make their lives easier. I felt guilty for charging my clients for their sessions. I feel guilty about my boys not being able to lead a normal existence and not being able to see their friends.
Then comes the IRRATIONAL STUFF – all the different theories of what may of may not be happening on different levels of awareness… The conspiracy theories started coming in, and causing even more fear and anxiety.
The quarantine may have been a conspiracy to bring down human kind by the 1% of power, but I’m not sure I buy into that one.
Even if the virus was released intentionally to cause the planetary super powers to shut down – it’s certainly done that – but, how would that be of benefit to anyone?
GRIEF DOESN’T DISAPPEAR – IT MOVES WITH US
We all have to come back to the situations that we are all currently facing, so you can see how the grief states move in and out. They flow around and never end. It’s a process and a journey. We are all still flowing in grief, and the emotions are all running high.
We also have QUESTIONS, and the questions lead to more questions…
Why are people losing their jobs – why are incomes being cut and slashed over night?
This threat to our survival causes more panic…
People get scared and start panic buying freezers and toilet rolls and bags and bags of peas because they have lost the ability to stay rational and calm.
The virus pandemic has now converted perfectly into panic and pandemonium.
The rapid change to our way of life is too much for people to handle.
Humans don’t like change – especially combined with the threat of imminent death and/or starvation.
This is the most scary thing. Our health being attacked, and so is our potential loss of freedom as we have to now keep two meters apart and greet each other with only a smile and a wave.
We become suspicious of each other and blame others quickly. We become victims of our own destructive thoughts and make dire predictions on all our social feeds that feeds more panic behaviour.
Social distancing and forced disconnection fires up our survival mode and we immediately get triggered into fight, flight and freeze – all at the same time.
We start fighting over the last radish, we run away to the top of a welsh mountain because we somehow think that the virus can’t climb mountains, and we freeze our toilet rolls, because we have too many of them.
We lose the ability to think straight and pay attention to correct information and really understand and digest what Boris actually means by “Flatten the Curve”.
The curve is escalating in a trajectory that is heading for death, and we just carry on queueing up for ice-cream on the common over the weekend because that’s what we always do when the sun comes out.
This is why the NHS is struggling, because more and more of us are getting admitted because one of us is a silent carrier and then we infect 3 more people, and when you do the maths, of the ratio of that – that is frightening. 1 turns to 3. 3 turns to 9, 9 turns to 27 etc. etc. The numbers are exponential.
We have been told to work from home, but lots of us say NO. WHY??? What is more important then slowing the spread down. I mean I’m no statistician, but even I can understand that this curve is exponential.
The NHS have to go to work, and yes, they are getting paid, but they are paying a much bigger risk with potentially their own health, their own sanity and their lives.
The real soldiers are the ones on our front line. The NHS, the teachers looking after the kids of the NHS workers and all the delivery drivers and the army of utility providers keeping our houses warm, lit, and with running water and supplied with our life support – the internet.
They didn’t have the internet in the war – What the f**k did they all do?
HOW CAN WE TURN BAD GRIEF INTO GOOD GRIEF?
I guess in the war, that’s exactly what they had to all do. They had no choice but to just get on with it and they did the best they could. They grieved, they asked questions, they ate what they could and they developed new routines, new systems. They looked out for one another and they sang lots of songs and wrote lots of poems.
They all fought their own private wars and the world war in the ways that they could.
They found resilience and strengths that they didn’t even know they had.
They all did their bit. They were all soldiers, and soldiered on.
They also came up with the famous sayings that may be useful to us all right now:
- KEEP CALM and CARRY ON
- NECESSITY IS THE MOTHER OF INVENTION
- UNITED WE STAND, DIVIDED WE FALL
When we can take this all this grief and turn it into productivity and power, we will all be able to stand together with calm hearts, we will find our innovative mind and begin to connect and create and we will come together as a human race and remember that in every one of us we have an army of trillions of white blood cells. We also have hearts and minds, that when used correctly can think strategically and help us win this new war.
In every one of us we have the option to use our minds laterally as well as literally. In every one of our problems, there is always a solution.
We can unite as a being and come together and understand that this respiratory attacking virus has an important global message for us, and it is this:
REMEMBER THAT OUR LUNGS HELP US BREATHE, SO WE NEED TO SUPPORT THEM…
Let’s all breathe LIFE in as it is right now and exhale all the GRIEF out with compassion and understanding.
With every deep breath we can all take together, we can all move forwards with hope for our future, and that’s nice.
It’s now nearly February 2021, and we are still locked down in the UK.
It’s so difficult to stay positive and it is so tough to remain constantly optimistic, but we must hang on to some hope – We must, and the way to do that is to focus on the small, but hugely significant good things in your life.
Even if there are no obvious good things, you have your breath. You are breathing, you are alive, and there is life in your breath.
Breathe into the pain, into the discomfort and breathe some more.
You have your breath with you at all times, and acknowledging this thing we normally take for granted can start to connect us to the fact that you are here. You are reading this blog, you matter, and you are loved.
About Dipti Tait – Author of Good Grief
Dipti Tait is the author of Good Grief , a Solution Focused Hypnotherapist and Lecturer.
Dipti wrote this self help book about how to deal with grief when she lost both her parents to cancer. This was her way of coping, and shares her story and helpful advice with you in this easy to digest book that you can carry around with you.
Visit the website for more information about grief and to buy a limited signed copy of Good Grief.